MELBOURNE, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina firmed as a strong contender for the Australian Open title with a ruthless 6-3 6-0 demolition of Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova in the early hours of Monday morning.
The 23-year-old fourth seed, one of four players who could leave Melbourne Park as world number one, took to Rod Laver Arena shortly before midnight and needed only 57 minutes to book her place in the quarter-finals.
Now riding a nine-match winning streak this year after winning the Brisbane International warm-up, Svitolina will next meet Belgian world number 37 Elise Mertens for a place in what would be a maiden grand slam semi-final.
“It was a great match tonight, I’m very pleased,” Svitolina said on court.
“I always take one match a time but winning that tournament in Brisbane gave me a lot of confidence.
“(Elise) is playing good tennis and has had a good start to the year as well, so it’s going to be extremely tough but I’m prepared and hopefully I will play my best.”
Allertova, the first qualifier to reach the fourth round since 2010, had won their only previous meeting in Doha last year and initially matched Svitolina stroke-for-stroke in some lengthy baseline rallies.
They exchanged breaks at the start of the opening set but Svitolina grabbed another for 3-2 when the Czech went long with a forehand and the Ukrainian backed it up with a couple of aces to hold her next service game.
The world number four had a bit of fortune on set point when her scrambled shot hit the net cord and threw Allertova, who dumped her backhand into the net, but there was no doubting Svitolina deserved her 1-0 lead after 36 minutes.
The second set was a procession. Svitolina thumped a backhand winner to break for 2-0 with a return from the same side smashed into an empty back court ending the contest inside the hour.
“I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing here because it’s not the first time I’m going into the tournament as one of the favourites,” Svitolina added.
“It’s more pressure but it also gives you confidence ... I’ll just try to do my best and see how it goes.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Toby Davis